Monday, June 18, 2018

A Glimpse at Arcanial, Pt. 3

Temple of Ashgaddon
Phoenix & Lead (№17)
This religious shrine is one of several on this floor. Located at the intersection of Lead Street with Phoenix Avenue, the main entrance opens on an elegant 40’ long colonnade leading to the sanctum. Another door leads outside, facing the Outer Gauntlet. Eight chambers used for meditation, private services, office work, vestry, storage, and acolytes’ quarters straddle the colonnade. About 40’ by 140’, the sanctum enjoys a magnificent vault soaring nearly 70’, reaching as high as the Upper Griffin. The temple’s cross-section can be seen on the side view diagram (see below).
Clad in black marble, the sanctum’s walls and floors give an impression of organic worm-like movement. Only stirred by the slow swing of a large bronze thurible, dimness veils the vault’s upper reaches. Careful observation might reveal the presence of wraiths drifting in the darkness above, the lingering forms of disciples felled in the service of their god.
A statue of Ashgaddon stands in the sanctum’s middle, facing toward the main entrance. At each of the chamber’s two ends stands a 10’ wide bronze vat with a few steps to reach its rim. Visiting faithful drop a few drops of blood into it, which turn into red maggots. By end of day the crawling, glistening mass fills the vat. After sunset, acolytes, priors, and visitors all leave, and the doors are carefully locked. Only when all falls as silent as a tomb, do the wraiths descend upon the vats and gorge themselves with the Life Force so generously proffered. The cycle resumes at sunrise.

Top View of the Neighborhood & Air Inlets
The cult’s grand prior visits this temple when one of the wraiths grows powerful enough to serve Ashgaddon as a Celestial (see Divine Servants, CC1 pg. 211). The ritual sends the former wraith to Navuut-Karkerath, the god’s domain in Sadarya. The temple’s prior can summon the wraiths to defend the sanctum against defilers.

Acolytes (8): AR 15 (leather padding), novice priors LF 6, MV 120’ (40’), TA 1 barbed spear, DR M, Size M—Str 67, Agt 50, Dex 56, Sta 78, Int 61, Wis 83, Per 61, MR 75, PH H –2/M –2/S –2. Faith: Ashgaddon, zealot.
Abilities: Repel undead; spellcasting—SP I x1. Barbed Spear—disarm opponent with a critical hit.

Game Stats: These are explained in a pamphlet. Click here to download this from DTRPG.

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Glimpse at Arcanial, Pt. 2

Calidar, Caldwen, Arcanial, Bruce Heard
The Great Emporium  
№2 Caldwa’s Terraces. 
This multi-level, high-end store sells all manners of luxury items of interest to magic-users, from practical but jazzed-up everyday tools of the trade to the weirdest doodads, all at extravagant prices but with a solid warranty and excellent return policy. Empty grimoires, smooth scrolls, rare inks, fine wand wood, spellcasting components, ornamental stones and gems, pearls, rings, pointy shoes, hats, robes, and cloaks, feathers, fancy masks, carpets, furniture, laboratory equipment, flasks, trick chests, decorative sarcophagi, wax dolls, scented candles, lamps, Lao-Kweian incense, Munaani myrrh, Kumoshiman chopsticks, talking fish trophies, and reams of magic items (locked in glass cases—please ask for help for the latter) are some of the goods available if the gold is right. An entire aisle is devoted to wizardly socks—sober, garish, or merely elegant, anything from mundane hosiery to exotic weaves can be found.
The entire edifice is enchanted to prevent not-so-honest clients from walking away with unpaid articles, causing the latter to be returned to their shelves and the former to a holding cell down on the Wyvern. Two dozen watchful faeries sporting the emporium’s green and silver livery provide discreet but efficient customer service. Two large gorilla-shaped golems sternly stand by the exit, next to the registers in case of trouble there. If needed, the store’s faeries can awake them and lead them to a shoplifter.
The business owner, one Gabbie Glittamax previously known as Maddie Magpie before she moved to Arcanial, owns the distinguished establishment. This crafty gnome started her business with a small shop in the Lower District, and gained notoriety during the past decade, being particularly skillful at getting what her clients were looking for. Nearly anything can be obtained if the price is right. Gabbie handles private negotiations and special orders in her office, on the sub-terrace floor. Warehouses, workshops, and break rooms, reach as far down as the Banshee.

Gorilla Golems (2): AR 20, Monster LF 28, MV 180’ (60’), TA 2 fists, DR 2M/2M, DC as monster; Size L (7’tall)—Str 106, Agt 89, Dex 50, Sta n/a, Int 50, Wis 44, Per n/a, MR 100, PH H*/M*/S*
Abilities: These golems are made of flesh and bone. They can easily climb walls and detect invisibility. They are immune to non-magical weapons, and electrical attacks heal combat damage. After first suffering a wound, they thump their chests; their next two attacks receive a +3 bonus to hit. With two successful punches, gorilla golems can slam shoplifters on the floor, stunning them for 2d6+2 combat actions, drag them back to the store’s register area, and pin them down until the city militia can intervene.

Faeries (up to 24): AR 25, Monster LF 3, MV 120’ (40’)/240’ (80’) flying, TA 1 dagger or spell, DR 1 VL or by spell, DC as monster; Size S (3’ tall)—Str 33, Agt 83, Dex 89, Sta n/a, Int 78, Wis 56, Per n/a, MR 75, PH H+2/M–2/S+3
Abilities: Can turn invisible at will and detect invisible; create fog (10’ cube around the creature); four of the faeries are department supervisors who can cast spells as LF22 magic-users.

Gabbie, Gnomish Sorceress-Rogue: AR 35, LF 25, MV 90’ (30’), TA 1 dagger +2, DR VL, Size S—Str 44, Agt 78, Dex 94, Sta 67, Int 83, Wis 56, Per 72, MR 75, PH H+3/M–4/S+5. Faith: Zarghadin, casual. Credentials: Bachelor of Illusion. Apparent Age: middle aged. Ancestry: Osriel.
Abilities: Spellcasting as an LF 25 magic-user; thieving skills are those of an LF 25 rogue.

Game Stats: These are explained in a pamphlet. Click here to download this from DTRPG..

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Glimpse at Arcanial, Pt. 1

While detailing #Calidar's flying city of Arcanial, I decided to post previews here for your enjoyment. Arcanial includes three big districts, one levitating above the other and slowly rotating in opposite directions. The next several entries I'll be posting on this blog are taken from the Middle District. This section of the city is roughly arena shaped, with "alleys" cutting through to enable gondolas and freight barges to fly past the city blocks. Beneath a series of concentric terraces lie up to 30 floors crisscrossed with streets and staircases, as well as wormhole-like portals enabling foot traffic to flow seamlessly across intersecting alleys. Individual quays and doors on each floor allow passengers on/off flying gondolas.

The first of the six golden-roofed buildings on Caldwa's Terraces
Lower Chamber of the Sorcerers
№1 Caldwa’s Terraces.
Nearly 120’ long by 40’ wide and with an ornate ceiling arching 30’ high, the Great Hall accommodates sorcerer officials from all parts of the magiocracy. Seen from the inside, the ceiling looks cathedral-like, as if it reached 90’ high, the result of an elaborate illusion. The front door is purely decorative: it is in fact a wooden carving with no moving parts. An enchantment enables members and chamber officials to pass through this ceremonial gate. Wooden statues of illustrious sorcerers long ago departed look down upon the Great Hall. They animate and attack anyone interfering with parliamentary sessions.
These facilities extend several floors lower, offering meeting rooms, private cabinet chambers, sitting rooms, an indoor docking hall, offices, and the Chamber’s archives. Parliamentary guards, known as Bee-Feeders (they collected honey from bee hives to help impoverished sorcerers long before Arcanial was sent aloft), keep a careful watch on all who come and go. Lesser individuals in the Chamber’s employ, messengers, and other visitors enter through another doorway three floors beneath the terrace. Facilities on the lowest level house a guard post at the entrance and the indoor docking bay facing Outer Artifact Alley. Private stairs connect lower floors to the Great Hall.

Parliament Statues (12): AR 35, Monster LF 17, MV 120’ (40’) or jump (see below), TA 1 breath or 2 claws, DR claws Lo/Lo, DC as monster; Size M (6’tall)—Str 67, Agt 89, Dex 44, Sta n/a, Int 50, Wis 44, Per n/a, MR 100, PH H*/M*/S*
Abilities: These wooden statues may jump as far as 20’ away from their position above the Great Hall, or as much as 15’ horizontally and 10’ vertically when on the floor, and still perform their melee attacks. Once per combat encounter, they can breathe a cloud of razor-sharp wooden shards in a 20’ long, 60˚ cone, inflicting  4Lo damage upon all who fail their Defense Checks. These statues suffer double damage from fire attacks and axe-like weapons. They are immune to blunt weapons and cold-based magic.

Bee-Feeder Guards (up to 20): AR 35, Warrior LF 8, MV 90’ (30’), TA 1 halberd, DR Hi+2, DC as warrior; Size M—Str 89, Agt 67, Dex 50, Sta 83, Int 61, Wis 61, Per 61, MR 83, PH H*/M+4/S*
Abilities: In keeping with tradition, a few hives are kept in wall recesses under the roof. Once during a combat encounter, a group of 6 or more guards can summon a swarm within 1d4 combat actions. Swarm: 30’ radius, MV 120’ (40’), inflicts 2Lo damage to all within area of effect; the swarm lasts 2d4+2 combat actions after which it dissipates; waving torches at the bees halves the swarm’s duration; area of effect magic (fire, cold, electricity, etc.) will likely kill off the bees. Swarms do not attack the keepers.

Game Stats: These are explained in a pamphlet. Click here to download this from DTRPG.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Testing Facebook Groups

Hi all. Just testing Facebook links here. Feel free to join!

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The World of Calidar is a fantasy setting for use with any role playing game. It is inspired from the Voyage of the Princess Ark stories published in...

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Failed Interview about Mystara

An interview of Matt Sernett on Dragon Talk came to my attention yesterday. I was particularly interested in the part dealing with Mystara. Skip directly to the 55:45 point (click here for the interview). I found it to be seriously lacking. Here’s what I have issues with.

When asked about Mystara, Matt hesitated, obviously trying to think about something to say. He then stated “Mystara had some not so great products.” This is an awkward way of introducing an IP owned by his employer. The truth is that Mystara had a lot of great products. He failed to mention the flagship Mystara product line—the Gazetteers, which were hugely popular.

He moved right along with this statement: “[Mystara] leaned very hard into the sillier elements.” Mystara never was meant as a gritty, dark setting. It had several light hearted entries, but that’s not enough to tag the whole product line as “silly.” Nonetheless, those light hearted entries were popular with core Mystara supporters, and did well enough sales-wise. Alas, this interview involves someone who focuses on a narrow aspect of a series, while ignoring what made Mystara great and long lived at TSR in the first place.

Matt then meanders at length about the development of the Red Steel setting under the AD&D banner, saying “[it] kinda showed a lot of that,” as an attempt to make his point about his perception of silliness, all the while admitting the setting wasn’t particularly silly a few seconds later. Why Matt brought up Red Steel as a way to characterize Mystara as a whole probably had more to do with his ignorance of the setting. Red Steel depicts a region of Mystara. As a matter of fact, the Know World core setting has nothing to do with it. Matt then goes on rattling off the idea of red steel as a cursed metal, the various non-human races of the setting, and its swashbuckling genre; in the process, he fails altogether to demonstrate what he felt was bad or silly. He doesn’t like the art. This is a matter of personal taste. There are plenty of Forgotten Realms’ entries with abysmal art in my opinion—clearly this does not mean that these products are all bad. Somehow, in Matt’s mind, that’s enough to warrant criticism however.


I understand Matt is a former editor for the Dragon Magazine. I find it curious that he would bring up Red Steel's AD&D later development without realizing maybe (?) that it was originally designed in one of the most popular features of the Dragon Magazine, the Voyage of the Princess Ark series. More than one subscriber stated they kept buying the magazine mostly for this series of articles. It too was somewhat light hearted and quite popular back then. It's where Red Steel came from.

Matt moves on to the audio CDs, which were an experiment TSR’s CEO forced upon the AD&D portion of late-years Mystara. These CDs weren’t at all representative of the bulk of the product line, something Matt continues to fail to bring up. But even then, his criticism of the audio CDs falls flat. Matt makes fun of the actors’ accent imitations, somehow having an issue with their flamboyant style (it’s a swashbuckler setting, remember?) I could think of a number of other things to say about these accessories; the voice impersonations are not an issue. 

Matt returns to the matter of artwork in the AD&D Monstrous Compendium. Again, it’s a matter of opinion. If Matt knew anything at all about art in Mystara, he should have had a look at the Gazetteer covers by Clyde Caldwell and the illustrations by Stephen Fabian. Those were certainly a lot more meaningful and representative of Mystara than the one-off MC that he personally disliked.

Matt goes on to say that product lines at TSR were aiming for the dark gritty style (Dark Sun and Ravenloft), assuming this was the only correct way of developing campaign worlds, because in his view, “everybody” was going for that style at the time. Gotta love that lemming mentality I guess. So then, how was it that Forgotten Realms didn’t also turn into a vampire/werewolf/zombie-palooza? Mystara was a mainstream, high fantasy setting aimed at a long-established fan base. Ravenloft and Dark Sun were later entries in TSR’s lineup, respectively 1990 and 1991, whereas fourteen Mystara Gazetteers had already been in print by that time. It would have been silly to “darkify” Mystara at that point. 

Matt then brings up the issue of Spelljammer as being another demonstration in silliness, which he claims “wasn’t something people wanted.” (Oh, really?) The interviewer intervenes and justly points out that Spelljammer was nonetheless very popular. (So much for not being dark and gritty.) And Matt instantly agrees—wait, what? I guess he didn’t really mean what he just said, or maybe it was okay for Spelljammer to be light hearted but not Mystara? For that matter, Mystara was indeed popular. It was one of the older game worlds at TSR, and it survived because of decent sales. It did well despite the fact that the original setting was written for the Basic/Expert sets, which was a challenge in itself. In this respect, Mystara very much accomplished the job it was intended for. A good number of AD&D players picked up the setting anyway, because they felt is was pretty damn cool, in fact. So much for not being what people wanted.

After the interviewer’s more even-handed remarks, Matt finally admits that he was only blaming “a couple of products really, but, umm, there’s lots of great stuff in Mystara.” (Well, how about that?) How did we get to this admission from the opening statement about Mystara having not-too-great products? Why did Matt not bring up core Mystara products, focusing instead on half-baked criticism? I suspect his personal bias and ignorance have something to do with it. This becomes evident when he states that Mystara has “a weird crossover with Greyhawk.” Matt meanders some more on the issue of Mystara’s origins, bringing up Arneson, Blackmoor, and then Mystara becoming its own thing. That was all pretty clueless. 

For the Record: The Known World was originally described as a brief summary in the Expert Set. The setting’s core was developed directly from that small part, which led to the popular Gazetteers. Arneson’s material came in after the Expert Set’s release, as a result of TSR’s lawsuit settlement, which led the company’s management to want to incorporate Blackmoor to the Mystara setting. The reason was to keep any Arneson connections away from the AD&D IP for obvious legal reasons (and especially away from TSR’s Greyhawk, which sat ostensibly in Gygax’s copyright sphere). Blackmoor was therefore retrofitted to Mystara and positioned centuries before the Know World’s timeline, since Blackmoor and Mystara had nothing in common. This happened around 1986, and involved all of 4 accessories (compared with more than 40 core BECMI/Mystara titles).

Matt then goes back to the audio CDs, claiming they were developed around that time. No they weren’t. They came up about 10 years later, around 1994, after Mystara was relaunched under the AD&D banner. All in all, this was an inappropriate way to describe Mystara. It seems to me Matt would have been better off declining the opportunity to speak about something he clearly knew too little about. The interviewer and the interviewee could have coordinated this better. Either this, or there was an intent to criticize gratuitously from the beginning. Either way, based on the reactions of present Mystara fans, the interview is quite poorly received. This does nobody any favors. Fans are upset. Matt appears as incompetent on the subject and rather tone deaf. The podcast disseminates misleading information to say the least. This could have been done much better. Is it a policy at WotC to shoot itself in the foot about IPs it owns? This makes no sense to me.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Levitium & Sky Cities

While I described a flying city in my current project, On Wings of Darkness, I dwelled upon ideas about how such marvels might be built. Here's one way, presented below, that helps explain how they work. Although this material is intended for the World of Calidar, it may be used pretty much as is with the World of Mystara. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

Calidar, Mystara, Levitium

by ArtAndJoy

Levitium is a magical gas native to Calidar. In its natural form, it binds with fine grain, metamorphic minerals broadly known as cloudstones. It is believed that levitium is related to Calidar’s world soul, the result of high pressure and heat permanently binding its magic to the mineral. Similar in appearance to white, blue, gray, or black marble, it can be carved and polished, but it is a bit more brittle than true marble. Levithium alters the physical properties of objects with which it is bonded, causing them to levitate. Its concentration determines how high these objects may rise through the atmosphere before settling at a certain altitude.

Cloudstones can lift additional weight (such as man-made structures, living beings, hardware, ice, snow, etc.) up to what their unenchanted mass should have been, without adverse effect on attainable altitude. Excess weight reduces altitudes cloudstones can reach. Loads twice a cloudstone’s unenchanted mass prevents it fully from rising. Additional enchantments or air anchors are often needed to stabilize cloudstones and prevent them from rolling over or drifting.

Cloudstone deposits generally lie deep below ground. Seismic activity may accidentally release cloudstones, often leaving rubble-filled chasms or lakes where a deposit was exposed. During eons of Caldwen’s existence, many such monoliths have risen and now wander the skies at the whims of winds. It isn’t always easy to tell natural clouds from these boulders as they often fly at the same altitudes. With time, they erode, break apart, and lose their levithium, gradually returning to the surface in an endless cycle. 

Most of the cloudstones in Caldwen and Araldûr have already been extracted. Few other regions operate mines, especially in Narwan and northern Belledor. The business of salvaging airborne monoliths is brisk, lucrative, but dangerous because sky-dwelling monsters or pirates may have already claimed them. Wind storms sometimes drive cloudstone debris, peppering imprudent skyships and their crews. Other vessels actually use nets to capture wandering rubble, like they would fish in the sea. Naturally, the greatest deposits of cloudstone still lie beneath the Dread Lands, largely untouched.

Calidar, Mystara, Levitium

by Nikulina-Helena

Natural cloudstones, especially if mined from pristine deposits feature the best concentrations of levitium. Caldwen’s capital city’s Upper District is built with large blocks and slabs of mined cloudstones. Small stones and gravel may be ground and made into bricks and cement. Cheaper, but less effective, these are used predominantly in Arcanial’s Middle District. Levitium can otherwise be extracted from cloudstones. Mixed in an alchemical solution, it can be absorbed in dry softwood, like pine, such as that found in the Lower District. It is the cheapest levitating product, but also the least effective and durable. This process is incompatible with hardwoods and metals, from which skyships are generally constructed. Navigating vessels, therefore, require separate enchantments to enable flight, which is a lot more expensive considering time, skill, and the number of spells needed.

Some monsters on Caldwen are naturally imbued with levitium, which flows in their flesh and blood. These creatures consciously master their levitation abilities, vectoring it in order to control their flight despite the absence of wings or other propulsion method. Some are better than others. Their blood may be used as a component for potions of levitation.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Gary Con X Video

Hi all. Here's a  video of a few things I was able to catch while at Gary Con. Some of this stuff is a bit blurry. Sorry -- old camera and all. Hope you enjoy the show nonetheless.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Gary Con X

A few pictures for Thursday March 8th.
One of the private gamerooms

A hallway before the crowd

The Kobold Press gang

All aboard, mateys!

I want one.

HMGS corner. I'll crash the party tonite or friday...

More HMGS ogres...

Looks like a LotR scenario. I'm definitely interested.

Here comes the roc!

Our buddy the ent.

One of the GaryCon gift table

In the exhibitors' room (the entire surface was sold out, so two other rooms had to be added.)

The Heath from down-under (not).  ;)

Wayne Targo hard at work in the Forum gaming area.

Looks like a bunch of Jedi stuck in an arena. Ring a bell?

First time I noticed the "Forum" gaming area, across the parking lot from the hotel lobby.
It's huge. There's definitely room for expansion there. 




One of the upstairs ballrooms.

The view out from an upstairs ballroom.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Thank You.

E. Gary Gygax
My life's a mess. It's all your fault. I wouldn't have it any other way if I had to do it over. Now, please pass that d20. Peace. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

About Reviews

Calidar books have so far been well received. A lot of care and attention is paid to contents, creative and graphic, with text, layout, maps, and art. It has been a slow process, since yours truly has to juggle game design, floor plan cartography, project management, advertising, social media presence, sales, and accounting, while still learning the ropes of indie publishing. The work in these books represents the efforts of more than one person--Thorfinn Tait's contributions with geographical maps and book layout cannot be ignored, nor should the work of artists who endeavored to give faces to Calidar's heroes and villains, the project editor, Janet Deaver-Pack, and more recently proofer Hervé Musseau. Kickstarter supporters should give themselves a major pat on the back as well.

Personal reviews are a way to thank all contributors and to convey constructive criticism and suggestions with the expectation they will help improve future releases. Fans ought to consider this especially if they hope to see future products for the World of Calidar succeed and follow a path that will best address their gaming needs. It's all about communication, hopefully amiable.

What does a review entail? Some can be as simple as a star rating. These can be logged in directly at the source, on DTRPG, where Calidar books come from. It just takes a minute (click here). An accompanying comment explaining the rating would be ideal but not absolutely necessary. That's the easiest approach.

Other methods include more elaborate and effective ways of reaching a wider spectrum in the gaming community. Mentions or discussions in forums are excellent ways to get the word across to other gamers, to the author, and creative contributors. I usually keep an eye on discussions on Facebook, G+, Twitter (#Calidar), and on the Piazza.

One other good place to put in a review is EnWorld's ranking page (click here for the present review status of Calidar books). In order for a title to appear on EnWorld's chart, a minimum of 10 reviews are required. If you plan on posting yours there, a paragraph on what you feel is most important is enough to help readers get the right idea.









Your feedback is important and appreciated. Thanks!



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Flying Circus has Landed

Greetings all. I finally received the much-awaited package from the printer this afternoon -- discovered by accident since the delivery guy at UPS didn't bother to knock or ring the front door bell. Good news: the printer's proof for the hardcover looks great. Bad news: the softcover version was not included in the package. Gee thanks. I placed an inquiry with DTRPG to that missing printer's proof asap.

Overall, the hardcover book looks great. The premium paper stock is slightly glossy and feels good to the touch. The printing is very sharp, which is a relief, considering the large number of maps inset in the text.

I'll start the hardcover's Kickstarter fulfillment first thing Thursday morning (Dec. 7th). This means that many of you will be receiving this book before Christmas day. This might also be true to some of you outside the US (especially in the UK). As for the softcover book, I won't be waiting too long before getting this process started as well. The printing inside the softcover book is identical to the hardcover's. The file is evidently different for the cover, but it is otherwise set up exactly the same way as the hardcover's, so I'm not expecting more bad surprises here.

That's it for now. If you need to find out more about Calidar projects in general (or this one, when I release it for general sale to the public), click the advertising at the top of the blog page. I'll let you now peruse the pictures I just shot of the book. Cheers!


CA1 -- Calidar: Dreams of Aerie